Renewed wave of FARC violence puts Colombia peace negotiations in peril

Following months of negotiations, ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC militia commanders are teetering on the precipice of failure following a renewed…
Renewed wave of FARC violence puts Colombia peace negotiations in peril

Representatives from Colombia’s government negotiation team, left of center, and representatives from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, negotiation team, right side of table, issue a joint statement in front of a sign that reads in Spanish “Peace Dialogues” in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate)

Following months of negotiations, ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC militia commanders are teetering on the precipice of failure following a renewed wave of attacks by militia insurgents over the past several weeks.

The FARC—as well as its smaller associate, the ELN (National Liberation Army) — has carried out a series of well-organized attacks on important infrastructure projects across the country. In reaction to the unexpected onslaught, President Juan Manuel Santos has condemned the militia’s actions while likening them to “playing with fire.”

SEE ALSO: Santos wins reelection; marks victory for FARC negoations

The attacks—which have taken place all over the South American nation—have augmented in scale since their commencement, ultimately resulting in this week’s power plant attack in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura. The bombing—which was carried out on Monday and took out one of the city’s major power generators—has left up to 400,000 residents of the country’s second-largest port city without electricity. Meanwhile, President Santos has called an emergency security summit with top military officials in order to discuss alternatives in case the ongoing negotiations fall through.

“From water supplies in remote regions to oil pipelines and electricity grids, the FARC has executed a series of attacks recently on these so-called soft targets, which rarely cause bloodshed but are costly in other ways,” reported Dan Molinski of The Wall Street Journal .

“For many residents of Buenaventura, which are already struggling with soaring unemployment and a murder rate three times that of the capital, Bogotá, the power outage only makes things worse.”

The attacks have even reached the capital of the country, where on Tuesday the ELN detonated several small explosives that damaged a highway crossing. In light of the attacks, the Santos administration—it recently won a presidential election based mostly on the promise that negotiations would be completed while bringing peace to war-torn Colombia for the first time in nearly50 years—has been dealt a major blow as the prospects of renewed warfare suddenly seem increasingly likely.

The months-long negotiations—which are taking place in Havana—center on five agenda points ranging from political participatory rights to ceasefire stipulations. As Peter Murphy of Reuters explains, “The [negotiators] have so far reached agreement on three of the five points on the agenda – land reform, the rebels’ participation in politics, and withdrawal from the drugs trade. A framework for ending the conflict and victim compensation are the remaining items to be agreed upon.”


Counter narcotics police walk through a coca field as they arrive to destroy a cocaine lab in Puerto Concordia in Colombia’s southern Meta state, Wednesday Jan. 25, 2012. Police seized cocaine and chemicals at the lab, which according to the commander of anti-narcotic police Gen. Luis Perez, belongs to rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

The conditions surrounding a potential ceasefire agreement as the peace talks proceed has been a particularly contentious point, as the FARC’s requests for a break in the fighting have been declined by the government out of the fear that the militia will simply use the lull in conflict to reinforce itself. The decelerating nature of the mediations and increase in violence have garnered Santos’ opponents in the national legislature—especially his staunchest opponent and former President, Alvaro Uribe—a louder say in the negotiations.

As Molinski goes on to explain, “Mr. Uribe and fellow lawmakers have criticized both the slow pace and the tone of the peace talks, saying it appears any peace deal will end with virtual impunity for most FARC leaders, many of whom have been accused of massacres on civilians and other atrocities during the protracted conflict. Mr. Uribe says talks should require harsher punishment for FARC leaders, or else the government should just go back to defeating the rebels on the battlefield.”

Meanwhile, President Santos has sent 200 troops to the southwestern region of Colombia –where attacks have been particularly widespread—in order to bring order and protect local civilians.

SEE ALSO: FARC guerillas rap for peach